Absentee Voting Controversy
General Assembly Republicans have taken a bit of the Reform Ohio Now spirit to heart. It turns out to be the 'Now' part.
In what seems to be an effort to either undercut the purpose or steal the thunder of RON's Issue 2, Senate Republicans amended language in a House bill they were considering to make provisions for absentee voting of the sort that would be provided by Issue 2. Democrats have cried foul, saying that this is clearly an effort to keep voters from the polls by making obsolete the most popular of the four issues.
Republicans counter by saying that the language of this bill is the same as that of a well known bill that passed the House in May - the timing this close to the election is immaterial. "As we move forward and get closer to the election," Senate President Bill Harris said, "we want to be proactive and put this in the Ohio Revised Code."
But proponents of Issue 2 aren't convinced that this is anything but a ploy, and the timing explains everything. "If Senator Harris and the legislature were concerned about absentee voting," RON's Scarlett Bouder said, "why didn't they do something about it before now?"
Getting away from the subject of timing, Republicans argue that the bill has provisions for preventing voter fraud that are not present on Issue 2. In order to vote absentee, according to the bill, voters would have to show some sort of identification, like a driver's license or a utility bill along with a cancelled check.
Democratic supporters of RON say that the fraud claim is just to scare people and that states with similar no-fault absentee voting have not seen a spike in fraud. Oregon , for example, relies very heavily on a vote-by-mail system. Not only has there been no widespread fraud in that state but voting percentages are way up and elections are actually less expensive than they had been.
The bill is expected to be voted on in the General Assembly within a week. Whatever happens with RON's Issue 2 on November 8 th , one thing seems to be true: come the next election, there will be far more generous rules for absentee voting.